Wednesday, 10 August, 2022
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Trump, Biden, Arnab Goswami, or Maharashtra police — who is the real winner on TV?

Indian viewers are used to election shows with rapid fire results — not the slow burn of US polls that could simmer.

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And the winner is…

Well, it’s a toss-up between Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Arnab Goswami and NDTV 24×7, which uses that phrase for its election-day specials.

Or could it be Pima County, Arizona, which may decide the fate of a nation — and the world — once each and every vote there is counted and accounted for?

Tell you what, the real winner is the Indian electoral system which gives us super fast-forward results that TV news channels speed read out for us, and the verdict is called by mid-morning so that we all can get on with the rest of our lives — not this achingly slow, convoluted, gut-wrenching US counting system where you go to sleep with Trump on the verge of victory and wake up to “Biden leads, Trump casts doubts…’’ (CNN).

And what to make of mail votes, early votes, late counting of early votes, early counting of elections day votes, la-lala-lala…?

Also read: Arnab Goswami’s arrest exposes Right-wing hypocrisy on free speech and political vendetta

Arnab Goswami’s saga

Uff, after more than 24 hours of this, you’re exasperated, fed up of watching Fox News, CNN, BBC, and simply pine for a glimpse of Arnab Goswami’s feet — which Republic TV very graciously showed us, Wednesday and Thursday — ‘Arnab assaulted, beaten & tortured’.

The editor-in-chief and chief promoter of Republic TV and Republic Bharat enjoyed 24×7 plus coverage on his own channels and even got onto Times Now, NDTV 24×7, and India Ahead after he was surrounded by Raigad police officers Wednesday morning, and then hauled off in a police van — all on a live mobile video feed. Even by Republic TV’s highly volatile standards, the “12 minute assault tape’’ it presented later was something else. The entire thing looks bad, especially for the Maharashtra Police, which has successfully made itself the villain of the piece even without Goswami’s help.

Back to coverage of the US elections — Indian news channels should be pretty pleased with themselves. NDTV 24×7 led the way with its extensive news, views and analysis coverage with Prannoy Roy-Dorab Sopariwala showing the way — although Amitoj Singh in New York was a star, nattily attired and quick on the draw.

Other channels like India Today, CNN News18 also devoted themselves to the US presidential elections while Times Now, Mirror Now and WION took live coverage from CBS News. And what an array of guests the channels managed to command. From feminist and author Gloria Steinem and writer Suketu Mehta (NDTV 24×7) to former US National Security Advisor John Bolton (Times Now), academics Christine Fair and Michael Kugelman (India Today), political analyst Ian Bremmer and financial expert Carlos Pascual (CNBC-TV 18), there was plenty to listen to and learn from.

Also read: Why the US is a model of how not to be a democracy

The US polls cliff-hanger

The American news channels CNN, Fox News, CBS News had ‘magic’ walls, with minute details of county by county percentage breakdowns presented by smartly dressed, well-coiffed anchors who spoke a language that was, for the best part, foreign to our ears — and not only because of the sharp nasal accent.

Which way Allegheny County in Pennsylvania or Kalamazoo in Michigan “leans’’, as CBS News and CNN are fond of saying, may interest the people of those counties and the US but what are Indian viewers to make of headlines that told us obscurely that the battle would be decided in the states of “AZ, FL, GA, PA MI MN, NV, NC…”?

And what a difference a day makes: on Thursday morning CNN’s editors were all chipper with a Biden victory looking more probable while Sean Hannity on Fox News thought it was a “disgrace’’.

Wenesday, it was as if the stuffing had been knocked out of CNN, while Fox News managed to contain its glee at a seeming upset victory by Trump.

CNN anchors and reporters, for the second time in four years, were stunned by that prospect Jake Tapper, Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and even the seasoned Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper had 2016 written all over their pale faces. “Nothing is a surprise,” exclaimed one anchor in surprise, as Trump held his ground in state after state.

Everything was far more animated before election day. The two channels had fought ferociously, passionately for their chosen candidate: Fox for Trump and CNN for Biden. But on counting day, they were both sobersides up. The fire and brimstone were replaced by serious men and women, mostly unsmiling, discussing the counting or results in polite, ‘after-you’ tones.

Perhaps this was because everyone seemed to have got it wrong. The results were “much more favourable to the President than anticipated,” observed a CBS anchor. There are a “couple of blue dots in a red ocean,’’ added Fox News, rather more colourfully. On CNBC, Tom Bonier of Target Smart had predicted a “landslide loss” for Trump.

On BBC World, the experience of watching the results was fairly painless — a sea of calm, as it were. Katty Kay and Andrew Neil put in a superhuman effort of anchoring the poll coverage from start to finish; together, they engaged in a fireside chat on the proceedings with the occasional witty sally: “You have to be living in la-la land to think Fox News is stealing the election from Trump,’’ he ticked off one Republican conspiracy theorist.

As Thursday heads towards Friday, the results are still in unknown territory, locked away in some county where votes are still to be counted. And Donald Trump, “is considering legal action in AZ, NV’’ CNN informed us. That would be Arizona and Nevada, if you must know.

So it ain’t over, folks. Stay tuned or tune out until the winner is declared.

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